French president’s violent deputy chief of staff scandal gets worse

French President Macron and his violent deputy chief of staff Benalla, on 14 July, the national holiday. AFP photo

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

French parliament starts inquiry into Macron‘s violent bodyguard

Alexandre Benalla is not just any bodyguard. He is/was Macron’s Deputy Chief of Staff.

The French parliament has launched an investigation into President Macron‘s bodyguard, who participated in police action against a demonstration on 1 May, and then beat protesters to a pulp. This Alexandre Benalla was fired after the Le Monde newspaper had published pictures of the demonstration last week, but the resignation was only under pressure from publicity.

This video says about itself:

Macron aide beats up student protester during May Day rally

19 July 2018

French President Emmanuel Macron is under massive pressure after his aide was caught beating up a student protestor. The incident took place at an anti-government May Day rally.

The man was identified as Alexandre Benalla. Upon noticing that he was being filmed by activists, Benalla retreats from the action finding sanctuary in a nearby cafe. At no point during the footage did riot police intervene against Benalla’s actions.

The NOS report continues:

Initially, he was suspended for two weeks and assigned to a desk job, said the spokesman for the presidential Élysée palace. “The strictest sanction possible”, it was called, but there is no evidence for it. French media have quite the contrary published numerous photos and videos of Macron‘s performances in recent weeks, with Benalla clearly still visible as the spider in his security web. He is always near the president, like on the national holiday 14th of July. Also in private outings of Macron and his wife Benalla was prominent.

On Monday he sat next to the bus driver in which the French football team drove over the Champs-Élysées in honor of the world cup title. Benalla is said have been responsible for the baggage of ‘Les Bleus‘, but it seems that this again was an example of the many privileges that the bodyguard enjoyed, such as an emergency vehicle lighting-equipped car with driver, a princely salary and a home in a chic neighborhood at the expense of the government. The 26-year-old Benalla has even recently been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, while he is only a reservist and this rank is reserved for highly experienced soldiers with a long time of service.

The Élysée and the highest-level politician, Minister Collomb of the Interior, seem to have committed a lot of bloopers. Collomb is the first person heard this morning by the parliamentary commission of inquiry.

Collomb, who prepared for that hearing his whole weekend and also had lunch with Macron on the Elysée, got cynical laughing reactions this morning when he claimed he had talked “as little as possible” with the president about the affair. “He is mainly working at the reform of the constitution”, said Collomb. The debates on that in parliament were suspended for an indefinite period under pressure from the Benalla affair.

Also, his other answers were not very convincing. “I do not know”, “I was not aware”, “Not to my knowledge”, this morning was repeatedly heard from the mouth of the man who is considered “the country’s highest level cop”.

The buck stops at Macron

Nevertheless, he has to explain, as Macron and he the day after the incident were informed of the violent actions of Benalla on May 1st. According to French law, government officials are obliged to report to the police if they know of an offense or crime by another official, and so they have failed. Collomb said this morning that such a report should have been made by the Élysée, in other words, by Macron, because he is Benalla’s highest boss.

“Macron is publicly silent about this matter”, said NOS correspondent Frank Renout. “But now you have his own minister who said this morning: “That Benalla is not at all about me, I did not know him. It’s a matter between the police and the president.” So the buck really stops at Emmanuel Macron.” Whether the president himself can be heard by the commission is a question, because a president in office is immune.

The committee, which consists largely of members of Macron’s La Republique and Marche party, will still hear the Paris police boss Michel Delpuech. The investigation is expected to take a month.

Exemplary republic

The questions that should be answered: how could Benalla wear a police bracelet, a helmet and a police phone on May 1, while he has no police authority (officially he was there as an observer of the demonstration)? Why did not the commanding officer do anything when Benalla beat up the protesters? Why was the inspection not notified? And above all, why was Benalla not fired immediately?

At stake is the interests of the president and his close associates and confidants, while Macron has especially become president with the promise of reforms and of “an exemplary republic”: stopping with all sorts of practices that have in the past discredited French politics. Macron may be silent, but he is certainly cautious in this first crisis [really?] of his presidency: he was supposed to be present at the 17th stage of the Tour de France cycling race in the Pyrenees on Wednesday, but he has canceled that visit.

7 thoughts on “French president’s violent deputy chief of staff scandal gets worse

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